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Plague is a bacterial disease of rodents, but it can spread to humans and pets, usually from the bites of infected fleas.

Plague season approaching in New Mexico

It may sound like a disease from the Middle Ages, but it still affects New Mexico nearly every year. It’s the plague, and of the ten to twenty cases annually in the United States, New Mexico is usually the most common site. In 2009, six residents living in Sandoval, Bernalillo and Santa Fe Counties were diagnosed with the plague. One of those, an eight year old boy, died.

Already in 2010, numerous cases in New Mexico have been confirmed in dogs and cats. The New Mexico Department of Health reports no humans have yet contracted the disease, and all the pets recovered after prompt antibiotic treatment.

“Plague is a bacterial disease of rodents, but it can spread to humans and pets, usually from the bites of infected fleas. If someone has been exposed, symptoms usually develop in two to six days,“ said Dr. Francine Olmstead, Medical Director at New Mexico Travel Health and a pandemic disease consultant. “It is a treatable disease when it’s promptly diagnosed and treated with antibiotics.

“If you suddenly develop a high fever, especially if you’ve been bitten by a flea or handled any wild rodents, you should immediately seek medical help,” said Olmstead.

When a person is infected, the plague bacteria moves through the bloodstream to the lymph nodes. The lymph nodes swell, causing the painful lumps (“buboes”) that are characteristic of bubonic plague. Other symptoms are fever, headache, chills, and extreme tiredness. If bubonic plague goes untreated, the bacteria can multiply in the bloodstream and produce plague septicemia, a severe blood infection. Symptoms include fever, chills, tiredness, abdominal pain, shock, and bleeding into the skin and other organs. Untreated septicemia plague can be fatal.

Pneumonic plague, or plague pneumonia, develops when the bacteria infect the lungs. People with plague pneumonia have high fever, chills, difficulty breathing, a cough, and bloody sputum. “Plague pneumonia is the only type that can be spread by humans,” said Olmstead. “It’s considered a public health emergency because a cough can quickly spread the disease to others. Untreated pneumonic plague is usually fatal.”

To help prevent the illness, control fleas on pets; stack woodpiles one-hundred feet from your home to prevent rodents from nesting in them; avoid contact with rodent nests or burrows. If a pet that has outdoor access suddenly develops a fever and seems very tired, contact your veterinarian.

The peak season is May through September. Animals that are most often infected are rock squirrels, prairie dogs, pack rats, chipmunks, rabbits, and mice.

“Millions of people died of the plague in Europe because homes were often infested with rats, who hosted plague-infected fleas,” said Olmstead. “With some precaution, plague can be almost eliminated from our world today.” Olmstead, a 1997 graduate of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, is a specialist in travel health and one of just a few thousand medical providers worldwide to have earned the Certificate of Knowledge in Travel Health, administered by the International Society of Travel Medicine.

Placitas Library

May 22: The Grand Opening of the Placitas Community Library will begin at 10:00 a.m. Entry into the Library and the Picture Placitas Exhibit will follow a ribbon cutting at 11:00 a.m.

Did You Picture Placitas?

A Celebration of Placitas: A Tribute to David Cramer

—The Placitas Community Library

Last fall, the Placitas Community Library invited all Placiteños to think about how they see their community and express those visions through photography, poems or prose, painting, or other media. Over 170 submissions were received and they are amazing. The talent shown by our residents has impressed everyone who has seen the work, and the Library is proud to be able to share all this talent with the larger community at the Library Grand Opening.

Placitas photography group, Perspectives: David Cramer, Fernando Delgado, Joan Fenicle, and Barry McCormick, is the Library’s partner in PICTURE PLACITAS: through our own eyes, in our own words, from our own hands, with all our hearts. Like many in this community, we were shocked and saddened by David Cramer’s sudden death. Our hearts go out especially to his life partner, Avi Kriechman and both of their families. Since PICTURE PLACITAS embodies David’s spirit of artistry, generosity, playfulness, and joy in the natural world, it seemed appropriate to offer this exhibit as a Tribute to him.

All the Perspectives members donated counless hours planning and developing this project, as well as providing photography workshops at the Elementary School and Senior Center. (Imagine David crouched on the floor demonstrating the merits of photographing a subject from below to a second grader.) Now they are curating and hanging images created by Placiteños to celebrate our special place. All of those involved in this project have been impressed by the beauty and breadth of the entries. Your delight in the place you live is palpable and wondrous. PICTURE PLACITAS Exhibit and Sale will open on May 22. The Grand Opening will begin at 10:00 a.m. Entry into the Library and the exhibit will follow the ribbon cutting at about 11:00 a.m. Please join us. All images will be for sale on a first-come, first-serve basis. Images are $35 each or three for $100. All funds will benefit the Placitas Community Library.

The Placitas Library Board is grateful to all the members of Perspectives Group for their generous gift of time and talent and especially to each of you who took the time to share your special “picture” of Placitas. As the building nears completion and we begin to move in, we discover the many tasks and items that somehow fell through the cracks. The Board has had to dig much deeper into our “operating” nest egg than planned in order to accomplish all this. We look forward to a very successful sale of PICTURE PLACITAS images at our Grand Opening. See you there.

Orville and Judy McCallister

For over 16 years, Merc owners Judy and Orville McCalister have built a quality and convenient grocery shopping experience for local residents.

The Merc: past, present and hopeful future

—Margaret M. Nava, Signpost

In 1978, Orville and Judy McCalister purchased a 400-acre tract of land on the western edge of Placitas, divided it into homesteads, and named it the Placitas Homesteads. After raising a family, they sold their house, bought a boat, and spent ten years traveling around Europe. “Every time we went to a new country, one of the first places we went was to the local market, not as tourists but kind of like residents.” They sampled French cheese, German sausage, and Roman olive oil. While touring the Spanish countryside, they gained insight into the country’s history and culture and developed a taste for fine wine. In 1994, they established Rioja, Inc. (Rioja is a famous wine region in Spain), built the Homestead Village Shopping Center on the frontage property of the Placitas Homesteads, and put their knowledge to work. The biggest store in the shopping center is The Merc, a full service grocery store, delicatessen, café, and liquor store, managed by Judy and Orville’s son, Jon.

Orville looks back. “In 1994, outside of the T&T Supermarket in Bernalillo, the only other grocery store in the area was located at Academy and Wyoming. We felt that the community of Placitas needed a store where people could buy everything they wanted. So right from the beginning, we put in a comprehensive inventory of affordable everyday items together with some things that other stores don’t ordinarily carry, like Boar’s Head premium meats, cheeses, and condiments, fresh baked goods, seasonal local produce, and fine wines.”

Recently, an e-mail began circulating, suggesting that The Merc was having financial difficulties. “Essentially,” admits Orville, “it’s true. Business is down with the recession. In fact, right now we have a negative cash flow, but we’re in no imminent danger of closing. We lost some employees, and that was tough because we have employees here that have been with us almost the entire life of the store. Some of them came to work with us when they were sixteen and have been here ever since.”

Judy believes part of the problem is that too many people think of The Merc as a convenience store. “We believe a lot of people have the perception that our prices are higher than the big stores, but we’ve always kept them competitive. We’d like more people to come in and give us a chance, not just stop in and get the things they forgot to buy when they were in town.”

Although there are those that think of The Merc as a convenience store, it is much more. The racks and shelves at The Merc are filled with everything needed for a Mother’s Day dinner, kid’s birthday party, graduation celebration, Saturday night get-together, Sunday picnic, or microwaveable dinner for one. There are delicious cakes and cookies, Sage Bakehouse breads, smoked ham and turkey, prosciutto and mortadella, aromatic Swiss, cheddar, and asiago cheeses, Choice organic teas, premium chocolates, Bob’s Red Mill whole grain products, imported and local wines and liquors, Snyder’s of Hanover snack products, all-natural homemade prepared meals, and a large selection of beautiful, fresh floral arrangements. Every Tuesday is Senior Discount Day, and every Friday is Wine Tasting Night. “We put out seven wines for people to taste, along with cheese, crackers and bread. It’s all free, and we even use stemmed wine glasses. The wines we choose for the tastings are the wines that are on sale that week. Our flyer comes out on Thursday, and people get to sample the sale wines before they buy them on Friday. We carry a little more than 1000 bottles of wine, and we’ve tasted just about all of them.”

 Each year, the Placitas Chamber of Commerce and the Homestead Village Shopping Center sets aside the first Saturday in June as a day of celebration and customer appreciation. This year, the Annual Placitas Appreciation Day is scheduled for June 5. “We have a car show, a pet parade, a bouncy-bouncy, two bands, and The Merc gives away free hot dogs and hamburgers. It’s our way of saying ‘Thank You’ to our community. But everyone in the area is invited to take part, especially people living in Bernalillo, Rio Rancho, Corrales, and the pueblos.”

Right now, no one really knows in what direction the economy is headed. Some studies indicate an increase in consumer confidence—others are pessimistic. Orville and Judy McCalister are cautious. “We’ve seen a lot of new faces at The Merc recently, and we want to welcome all of them and thank our regular shoppers as well, but we can’t finance a negative cash flow forever, so we’ve come up with some contingency plans. If things get worse, we could not carry groceries and just sell liquor, we could turn the store into a convenience store with appropriate prices, or we could just close down. It’s pretty interesting. The analysis indicates that if all the people who currently shop here spent another $2.80 every time they came in, or if another 300 or 400 customers came in each week, we’d be all right.”

Locally owned businesses like The Merc add character to the community. They offer personalized attention, add diversity to your shopping options, and they pay their employees—and local taxes—with the income they receive. Make your hard-earned money go farther—spend it where it will make a difference.

The Merc is located three miles east of I-25 in the Homestead Village Shopping Center at 221 Highway 165 (east end of Highway 550) in Placitas. It is open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Drop in and say hello, grab a quick sandwich or cup of coffee, and get to know all the great people who work there. “Just like the friendly waves you get from the people you pass in Placitas, you get that and more at The Merc.”

Karate Dojo students

Bringing home several medals; the Placitas and Jemez Shotokan Karate Dojo students are proud of their accomplishments as they pose with Sensei Stephan Polus.

Work hard and go to Las Vegas

—Karen Hanthorn-Rhodes

At the Placitas and Jemez dojos, members of the Westside Shotokan Karate Club are frequently admonished by Sensei Stephan Polus to “Work hard or go home!” However, for the last few months, the club members from Placitas Elementary School and the Jemez heard a different chant from their world champion sensei: “Work hard and go to Las Vegas.”

Building on recent medal winning successes at karate tournaments in Belen and Albuquerque, many of the Placitas and Jemez students traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada, to attend the prestigious Ozawa Cup Tournament that draws competitors from around the world.

The Placitas and Jemez dojos participated in events ranging from kata—formalized karate drills—to stylized team kata and sparring. Competitors from Placitas included:  Sensei Stephan Polus, Sempai Brittany Holden-Rhodes, Sempai Ryan Suazo, Sempai Sara Watson, Anna Suazo, Natania Breines, Bhudsera Breines, Michelle Arnold, Tyler Arnold, Noah Arnold, Collin Johnson, Savannah Perez, Snow Watson, and Sam Watson. Also competing was Carlos Garcia from the Jemez Dojo.  

Overall, there were approximately 20 competitors in each division at the competition, and most were from other countries. This allowed for a worldwide education for our group of young American competitors. One student said, “It felt like we were at the Olympics.” All local competitors worked hard, with several placing and bringing home medals.

The Ozawa Cup Tournament was held at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, on April 3-4, 2010.

Girl Scouts

Girl Scout Troop 2296, with the help of Sensei Stephan Polus (from Westside Shotokon),  participated in a Personal Safety/Self Awareness class held on April 11 in Placitas

Local Girl Scout Troop learns to take on danger

Placitas Elementary School Girl Scout Troop 2296, made up of 4th, 5th and 6th graders, has been very busy lately. Throughout the year, they make fleece blankets for Project Linus, the nonprofit organization that provides blankets for traumatized and ill children in Sandoval County. Last Christmas, they organized a food and toy drive for the Casa Rosa Food Bank through a “Giving Tree” located at the Piñon Cafe. They collected toiletries for the Metropolitan Homelessness Project. And during the annual Girl Scout cookie drive, they raised enough money to pay for materials used in various service projects as well as the Personal Safety and Self Awareness class they participated in on April 11.

Sanctioned by the Girl Scouts of America, the Awareness class concentrated on personal safety and safety awareness at home, outdoor safety, including staying safe on the streets and handling strangers, reporting emergencies, fire prevention skills and home fire safety, and basic first aid skills.

Girl Scouting helps young women establish a set of values that will guide their actions for life and encourages them to contribute to the improvement of their communities. It helps them build skills that keep their bodies healthy, their minds engaged, and their spirits alive.

Troop leader Linda Hughes said, “In a time when many young people are drawn into the media overload of our society – television, video games, computers – I am proud to be a part of a local group of young girls that are committed to the vision and challenges of Girl Scouting.”

For further information about Girl Scouting and the programs offered, contact Girl Scouts of the Chaparral Council at 505-343-1040.

Casa Rosa and Flying Star

 (left to right)  Charlotte Lough, chair, Casa Rosa Board of Directors; Sheryl Santora, manager, Flying Star Bernalillo; and Peggy Reade, president, Sandoval County Civitan Club.

Flying Star Cafe and Casa Rosa team up to feed the hungry

—Sherrill Cloud, Sandoval County Civitan Club

On Monday, April 19, Sandoval County Civitan Club facilitated a fund-raising dinner at Flying Star in Bernalillo to benefit Casa Rosa Food Bank, which is located in Placitas. From 5:00 to 9:00 p.m., 10 percent of the evening’s sales at Flying Star Bernalillo were donated to Casa Rosa.

Casa Rosa Food Bank, as a partner agency with Roadrunner Food Bank, works in the community to address hunger every Saturday morning for eligible Placitas residents and every second Wednesday of the month for eligible Sandoval County residents. Casa Rosa Board members and volunteers, as well as the Sandoval County Civitan Club, were most appreciative of the large crowd that turned out to help support this worthy cause.

Coronado Monument Kiva

Coronado State Monument’s historic Painted Kiva to reopen to public

Painted Kiva is a familiar historic landmark to local residents. From 1940 to 2006, thousands of people visited Coronado State Monument just to climb down an old, wooden ladder and see the inside of this ceremonial space. However, for the past three years, visitors to the monument found the kiva closed due to serious structural problems.

Painted Kiva had endured seven decades of drenching summer rains which waterlogged its adobe and timber structure half buried in the ground. The kiva’s walls were in danger of immediate collapse. Previous attempts to fix the poor drainage had failed so experts were called in to develop a two-phase restoration plan.

Phase One required removal of the existing roof—a one-foot thick slab of concrete—without causing further damage. Workers from Valliant Builders of Los Lunas drilled dozens of one-inch holes into the concrete slab. Then each hole was filled with Bentonomite, a material that expands as it dries. Expansion of Bentonomite allowed for breaking up the slab without a jackhammer’s vibrations. A tent was then put up before removal of the kiva’s roof to keep the walls dry and protect its interior.

The second phase required replacement of five 25 to 28-foot-long vigas, reconstruction of the roof, and rebuilding of adobe walls according to a design drawn by architect Lee Gamelsky. Phase II was completed by Crocker Ltd. of Santa Fe in March 2010.

After three years of major surgery and a mud-plaster facelift, Painted Kiva is again accessible to visitors beginning Sunday, June 6.

The next phase in Painted Kiva’s restoration will be preservation of artist Velino Shije Herrera’s 1938 murals, replicas of the kiva’s original Kuaua images removed in the early 1930s by archeologists. The original five-hundred-year old murals were an example of the most well-preserved Native American paintings. Herrera was commissioned by the Museum of New Mexico to recreate the images for visitors to see in the Kiva. Segments of the original murals are on display at the site.

For more information about visiting the Painted Kiva and Coronado State Monument, call 1-800-419-3738.

Drawing system to be used for issuing wood permits

The Sandia Ranger District will be offering a one-time drawing system, this season, to be used for issuing firewood-cutting permits in the Sandia Mountains. The public will have an opportunity to submit their name and contact information by visiting, calling, or faxing information to the Sandia Ranger District on May 3, 2010, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

There will be a two-cord limit per family, if selected. As wood becomes available, the Sandia Ranger District expects to offer up to 150 cords of firewood to the public this year.

If individuals who applied during the initial drawing fail to respond when contacted, additional names will be drawn.

For more information, contact the Sandia Ranger District 505-281-3304.






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